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Ten Customer Experience Center Best Practices

Whether you are looking to retain your current customer base or just shorten the average handle time, it really goes without saying that every step a call center takes to improve is geared towards improving customer experience and reducing customer effort.Customer_experience_best_practices
When it comes to reducing effort, probably one of the most important metrics a call center should focus on is first call resolution (FCR.)There is a significant difference between a world-class caliber call center and an average call center. A call center must achieve 80 percent or higher to attain world-class FCR call center status. This typically means an average of 1.2 calls or less is needed to resolve a customer’s inquiry or issue. In this day and age, call centers with an FCR performance level of 67 percent are considered to be well below average, meaning it takes 1.5 calls in order to resolve a customer’s inquiry or problem.

Service Quality Management (SQM), a leading North American research firm for benchmarking and tracking call center progress, has outlined the top ten best practices to turn your call center into a world-class FCR call center.

  1. Management should be prepared to convey to all call center agents that is a priority to resolve all customer inquiries and issues on the first call. It is truly important for management to lead by example to show all employees how important it is to be customer-centric. Frequent training sessions and call center agent review periods can be implemented to demonstrate management’s commitment to customer service excellence.
  2. ROI awareness: Not achieving first call resolution for customers can really cost a call center business, approximately five to ten times higher than the operational savings from improving FCR. Typically, the average call center benchmarked by SQM loses about 44,000 customers based on a negative call center experience, or perhaps even not having their issue resolved on the first call.
  3. Goals and accountability: All call center agents should be responsible for achieving several goals involving both productivity and customer service. These goals can be regularly measured by conducting several performance reviews of randomly recorded agent calls with actual customers. In SQM’s benchmark studies, it has been noted that call centers with a bonus program, based on the goals they have for their agents, can improve their FCR performance by as much as 12 percent, in as little as 30 days. Typically, there are five customer-centric metrics used in world-class call centers that can measure accountability and recognition, including: overall CSAT with the call center, overall CSAT with the call center agent, whether or not the customer’s call was resolved, world class call (a combination of all the above metrics,) and first call resolution.
  4. Customer and employee surveying: This involves developing a three minute post-call survey of the customer and using the results to retain customers, reduce the possibility of repeat calls, and creating accountability for call center agents for all aspects of customer service. It is best to conduct about five of these surveys per call center agent per month. Three minute surveys can also be developed for the call center agents to take to measure whether or not they feel management is focused on improving overall FCR. These surveys should be conducted twice annually per agent.
  5. Improvement process: Call centers have the opportunity to use the Deming Cycle, a four step process for solving problems in business, better known as the PDCA, or plan, do, check, and act. Plan: Enables a call center to identify the types of unresolved calls and how to reduce and improve on them. Do: Allows a solution for unresolved calls to be developed and implemented. Check: This involves monitoring customer calls to see if the solution for unresolved calls is working. Act: Should the developed unresolved call solution be working, further details can be ironed out to get a more permanent solution in place to improve unresolved call performance.
  6. Customer Quality Assurance: This practice uses both call compliance and customer survey information to assess call quality. Considered to be one of the best practices for improving both FCR and CSAT performance, a call center agent would actually see the customer survey results, hear a recorded customer call, and see the screen capture from the call transaction. In SQM’s benchmark studies, it has been noted that call centers that have successful implemented this program have seen FCR and CSAT improvement of about 5 percent.
  7. Selecting call center agents: New call center agent candidates should be screened through a four step process when being considered for hiring. Pre-interview selection: A call center agent candidate’s resume should be reviewed and an IVR can be used to interview the candidate to determine whether or not they go further through the review process. Personality test: This is best used to determine whether or not the candidate has customer-centric traits. It is best used to see how candidates would react when faced with several different types of customer scenarios. Job stimulation: The candidate receives a thorough understanding of the job and what is expected from them, while the call center gains an understanding of whether or not the candidate would fit the job requirements and would provide great service. Face-to-face interview: This is the most critical step in determining whether or not to hire a candidate. Interview questions should be formed to determine the probability of the candidate being able to provide world-class customer service.
  8. Escalation agents: These are highly skilled call center agents who handle the customer calls after the first agent or two has not been successfully able to meet the expectations of the customer. This is a call center’s best chance to show the customer that they truly care about their needs and want to resolve their issues. It is important that an escalation agent focus on resolving the customer’s issue within the first call. For every 15 call center agents, it is a best practice to have at least one escalation agent available.
  9. Concierge service: These agents assist customers in determining who need to contact other departments or organizations. They provide customers with reference codes, authorization, or anything else they made need to resolve their call. A concierge agent tells the customer that they will call the department for the customer to get them the code or information they need. A successful concierge service will make the customer feel like the call center has taken charge of the call and that they fully understand the customer has an issue that needs to be taken care of in a timely manner.
  10. Call center agent incentive: Based completely on customer satisfaction and call resolution performance, a call center agent bonus is an excellent incentive to assure that agents will be focused on meeting their productivity and customer service goals. The vast majority of call center agents should be deemed eligible for this incentive program. It could also be considered best practice to have quarterly bonus payouts, but weighed out towards the higher performing call center agents.

Which of these call center best practices have you used in your call center? Which ones have been successful? Which ones have not been so successful? Describe any best practices your call center may have developed on its own.

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